Love and Theft Weigh the Pros and Cons of Signing With a Major Label
Love and Theft, the duo made up of Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson, recently signed a deal with Curb Records, and they are happy to be back on a label, which will allow them to promote a record that they've spent much time working on to the fullest.
"Being independent, obviously you don’t have the same budget for marketing; you don’t have the same budget to record an album," Gunderson tells The Boot. "I think the budget for [Love and Theft] was a quarter of a million dollars. And we just made [Whiskey on My Breath] for under $20,000."
Love and Theft released their debut album, World Wide Open, on Lyric Street in 2009, then put out their eponymous sophomore album on RCA Records in 2012; 2015's Whiskey on My Breath was released independently. The guys acknowledge that despite those monetary constraints, there are plenty of perks to striking out on their own, although the effort is much more intense.
"You can do a lot without having a major label, but it’s also a lot more work for us as artists, because you don’t have that big machine behind you. You don’t have the relationships that the vice president of promotions has," Gunderson continues. "For us, we’ve had to reinvent ourselves in a way, and also how we got adds and got airplay. I think, obviously, it’s high risk, high reward."
Signing with a label like Curb means that Love and Theft won't have to shell out all of their own money for the new album -- but it also means giving up some of their creative control.
"There’s good things, and there’s bad things," Gunderson states. "Obviously, we have a ton of creative control, being independent, where with a big label, you’re at the mercy of the A&R department and the president of the label and those who are making decisions, because it’s their money in a way, and they want a return on their investment."
There are benefits to the roller coaster of going from signed to unsigned and back again that Love and Theft have experienced.
"For us, we’ve gotten to experience almost every facet of the industry in every scenario now. Lots of highs and lots of lows," Gunderson adds. "But for us, we feel like we’re better business people, better everything. I think it’s made us more well-rounded."
Although it comes from their previous record, Love and Theft's last single, "Whiskey on My Breath," is a good indication of what their next project will sound like.
"We’ve been writing some really good stuff," Liles says. "We have even a better direction of what we’re doing now. As we grow as adults, we also grow as artists ... Songwriting is something, you’re only going to get better at it as you do it. You can lose your voice because you’re irresponsible, but it would be really hard to become a worse songwriter, so I feel like that’s something we’ve really honed in on.
"And, as we’ve grown as artists, I feel like we’ve grown in what we want to say," he adds. "I think the new record is going to be the deepest we’ve done."
Still, Love and Theft promise to not go too "out there."
"This record has some bubble gum stuff on it," Liles reveals. "We didn’t want to shock everybody. We’re not going to put out a Chris Stapleton record, because people will be like, ‘What are you doing?’"
Gunderson and Liles, each married and a dad, will continue to spend time away from home due to their careers, but the guys insist that their families are always supportive.
"They’re grateful for it, too, because now they’re stay-at-home moms, and they’re not working at bars anymore, which they both used to do," Liles notes of his and Gunderson's wives. "I think they’re grateful also that we have each other and hold each other accountable on the road. They’re very supportive of us. They get it."
A list of all of Love and Theft's upcoming shows is available on their website.